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Tag: Manchester Palace theatre

ENB’s ‘My First Ballet – Swan Lake’ Review

ENB’s ‘My First Ballet – Swan Lake’ Review

The English National Ballet have created their ‘My First Ballet’programme, retelling classic ballet stories with more of a U rating, (let’s face it, the world of ballet is often gory and tragic) suitable for little eyes, but still as much artistry and original scores to satisfy any ballet enthusiast. With help from a narrator and a shortened running time, they bring ballet productions to the masses, inspiring the next generation of art lovers.

The Swan Lake production starts with a friendly and theatrical narrator, Louise Calf, on stage, setting the scene and detailing the backstory. She is enthusiastic and expressive, perfect for captivating little minds and getting them to engage, yet quietly sits at the front of the stage and observes the following scenes, as not to become a distraction.

The dancers themselves are all members of ENB’s ballet school. It gives them valuable performance experience, as well as a taster of what it’s like to tour with a production and dance those iconic roles that are the pinnacle of every professional ballet dancer’s career. However, don’t let the fact that the cast are still students put you off. The English National Ballet School is a prestigious education system for only the very best emerging artistes of the future.Although, Swan Lake is regarded as one of the most demanding productions, not least because the characters Odette/Odile are traditionally played by the same dancer, here they are individual roles. However, even the legendary 32 fouettés (series of difficult, consecutive turns en pointe) have been included in this production. On this particular showing, I only counted 29, whether I miscounted whilst being in awe, or the dancer felt something was amiss and didn’t complete the whole series, that in itself is no mean feat, and they were executed perfectly!

The production has been cleverly reworked by Lou Cope, with choreography by Antonio Castilla and musical arrangements by Gavin Sutherland. There is a great emphasis on ballet mime, with is echoed through the narration, further helping to bring the story to life for the younger ones. The music scores have been shortened to keep production time down yet still include the most beloved melodies, and the choreography still contains some of the classic repertoire whilst injecting moments of humour and simplicity. No diving to her death for Odette here. The story now goes that Odile cannot go on with the trickery of the evil Rothbart’s plan, so she reveals her true identity at the ball, scuppering Rothbart’s efforts, and sides with Prince Siegfried and Odette, helping them to overcome the sorcerer and follow the path of true love, whilst Rothbart himself is released from the clutches of the dark side, to live harmoniously, and everyone, in true Disney style, lives happily ever after.

I’d also like to mention the wonderful programme that has been put together, again with little ones in mind. It contains beautiful illustrations by Mark Ruffle, the storyline written down with photos and picture symbols depicting the plot, some classic ballet moves and mimes to spot and even pages to colour in. And of course who can resist production merchandise at the end?!

From start to finish, My First Ballet Swan Lake is a complete sensory experience. It’s a wonderful way to introduce a younger audience to the world of ballet and the arts, perfect for their first to the theatre, and no doubt will encourage them to want to see more productions, as well as perhaps inspiring them into becoming the ballet stars of the future.

The tour is showing at The Opera House Manchester until Sunday 29th, with last minute tickets still available via this link http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/my-first-ballet-swan-lake/opera-house-manchester/or call the box office on 0844 871 3018. They then continue on to;

The Grand Theatre, Blackpool 5th & 6th May

http://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/event/my-first-ballet-swan-lake/

New Victoria Theatre, Woking 12th & 13th May

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/my-first-ballet-swan-lake/new-victoria-theatre/

Princess Theatre, Torquay 19th & 20th May

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/my-first-ballet-swan-lake/princess-theatre-torquay/

All information can also be found on ENB’s website www.ballet.org/myfirstballet

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Shrek the Musical

Shrek the Musical

As I sat waiting in trepidation, the green hues of the lights and the sea of ogre ear headbands had already begun to transport me to a land far, far, away. Even the stage curtain was that of a forest canopy. The scene was set! I wasn’t sure how one of the most loved computer animated movies was going to transpire to the stage. Would the writers and creative directors be able to pull it off?! Only time would tell.

In classic fairytale style, a gigantic story book magically opened before our eyes, with the characters seemingly appearing from nowhere. It told the story of a young Shrek, and how he came to be on his own in the swamp. Away with the book, it was time for the real story to begin.

Shrek in the film is such a loveable rogue, brought to life by the incredibly talented Mike Myers. His voice and mannerisms are the very fibres of the character, so how would it be to watch an actor? Would it feel like the actor was simply imitating?! I needn’t have worried. Steffan Harri plays a wonderful Shrek, making the character truly his own, almost, if not, more loveable than the animated version. His ogre game is strong.

Every hero needs a side kick, and boy do you get a kick out of Doneky! Marcus Aynton is the best ass ever to have tread the boards! His comedic timing and one liners make him an instant hit with the children, with the writers even throwing a few adult jokes in that are well over the little ones heads, they’ll be too captivated with Donkey’s slick dance moves!

Princess Fiona is played by non other than ‘Call the Midwife’ actress Laura Main. When we first meet her, she is every inch the traditional princess with her fiery long locks and emerald green dress, but as we get to know her more, she really comes out of herself. I guess having freedom after all that time locked in a tower will do funny things to you! Laura brings real grit and a toughness to Fiona that makes you warm to her instantly. Her voice packs a powerful punch, knocking sweet singing birds out of their nests no less and the campfire scene where she has a – let’s just say ‘windy’ competition with Shrek, is pure comedy gold. Toilet humour never fails to crack a smile!

That’s not even the funniest part. Lord Farquaaaaad, played by Samual Holmes, wins the funniest performance award hands down! What he is lacking in stature, he most certainly makes up for in laughs! With the help of some very clever wardrobe tricks and facial expressions to rival that of Jim Carey, you only need to look at him to be amused, and that’s all I’m going to say about it, I don’t want to spoil it for you!

As for the rest of the multitasking cast, I’m tired just watching them!They play various familiar story book characters as well as soldiers, village people, tap dancing rats and 3 particular mice one can only assume were blinded by their own sassiness. Some of their costume changes must have been similar to that of a magicians assistant who steps behind the curtain and out the other side with a completely different ensemble! Their signing, acting and dancing skills are put to the test with each number being so different in style and genre and to pull it off so well is a sign of a true professional.

What I especially liked, being a theatre geek, are all the tiny references to some of the other great musicals around – a trademark dance move here or there, familiar lyrics hidden within a song, and a certain flag flying high to mention a few. Watch closely and see how many you can spot!

All in all, it’s the most fun I’ve had at the theatre in a long time. The joy every single one of the cast is having whilst on that stage is almost tangible, and that transfers to the audience in a way similar to that of a panto – boo and hisses, cheers, cued laughter and up out of your seat dancing to the finale song to finish on a high! Whatever your age, young and old, children and adults alike will not fail to be entertained. It’s such a family affair, I can well see this becoming a tradition for many. Bonding, building fond memories and laughing – lots of laughing, crying with laughter, together. That’s what theatre is all about after all. So follow in the footsteps of Shrek and Fiona, Donkey and Dragon and all the story book folk, embrace your weirdness and find your happily ever after that begins with watching Shrek the Musical.

The show will be staying at the Manchester Palace Theatre untill 28th January. You can book your tickets using this link or telephone number below. https://atgtickets.com/manchester/

Tel:0844 871 3019

The rest of the tour dates can be found on the website https://shrekthemusical.co.uk/

Special thanks to the Palace Theatre Manchester and We Blog North for my first press night. I had a blast, but next time I’ll have my own novelty headband ready!

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